It has come to our attention that the community of barbers and purveyors of leeches have grasped upon the noble name of Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von Münchhausen to describe a mental condition. Such actions merely reveal their own ignorance, not only of medicine, but of the behavior of gentlemen such as the good Baron. Therefore, if any member of the lower classes, those infused with a ill-conceived notion of their cleverness, or a Norwegian is heard to mutter the despicable phrase “Munchausen by proxy,” he shall be visited by Baron Münchhausen himself. That worthy shan’t bother with the formality of a duel, since clearly no challenge is needed when insulted in such a dastardly manner. Rather he shall use his remarkable display of swordsmanship (as complimented by none other than Empress Catherine the Great, whose offer of marriage the Baron once had the honor of declining) to enact such a skillful display of vengeance that the justly-chastised victim will be forced to spend two weeks looking for his trouser buttons.
Where was I? Oh yes. I am reviewing a game: The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen, “A Game of Wagers, Wine, and Competitive Lying.”
I love this game. I love it a little too much. When I’m among friends who’ve known me for a long time, and I suggest we play it, the usual reaction is “Oh no! Not that game with Bill! Quick, someone find a Pictionary set. No, I don’t want to play it, I want to beat Bill over the head with it.”
From which we can logically conclude that many of my friends lack the required imagination to play the game.
The rules of the game are about as simple as Fluxx, but the nature of the game is quite different:
– Everyone starts off with tokens (for example, pennies), as many as there are players in the game (minimum of five tokens).
– The person of the highest social class, or the one who most recently bought the drinks, turns to the player on their left and says, “Tell me of the time you…” The request should elicit a remarkable story, for example “Tell me, milady Greystoke, of the time you made the Pope pregnant.”
(Even when I’m trying to write normally, I keep falling into the faux-nobleman language of the game. Perhaps this is why I have so many Pictionary-shaped dents in my skull.)
– That player takes about five minutes to tell the story. It is of course absolutely true, as were all the Baron’s stories. (I’m doing it again. I’ll try to stop.)
– The other players can interrupt the story by offering a token to the storyteller, either by introducing a new element to the story or by contradicting it. The storyteller can accept the token and alter the story, or return the token with one of their own, and continue the story unchanged.
– To put it another way: a player can effectively say “I’ll bet you can’t put this in your story.” If they’re right, the storyteller pays them a token. If they’re wrong, the storyteller gains a token.
– After everyone has told a story, the players vote on who told the best story. The number of votes you cast is the number of tokens you have. You can’t vote for yourself. Whoever gets the most votes wins.
That’s pretty much it.
So why is the rulebook 23 pages long? That’s if you can find it; the hard-copy game is out-of-print, and only the PDF version is available.
The answer is that the game is written in the florid and exuberant language of the Munchausen stories. The rules (and necessary digressions) are a delight to read, but they don’t lend themselves to brevity. (I’m doing it again!)
The game requires imagination and improvisational skill. There’s some strategy involved too: If you accept everyone’s story suggestions and gather all the tokens, you won’t win; you’ll just be able to vote for the winner. If you give away all your tokens, you’ll be forced to accept everyone’s suggestions. To win you have to carefully assess the other players’ storytelling abilities and how to respond to them.
Did I say how much I loved this game? In truth, I misspoke. I have not played it often enough to say my feelings are truly love. I like it, respect it, enjoy its company. But love? Let us spend more time together before we express our true feelings for one another.
There may be another Pictionary bruise on my head before too long.